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Alabama Police Unable to Verify Carlee Russell’s Report of Abduction

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The police in Alabama said on Wednesday that they had not found any evidence to substantiate a woman’s report that she had been abducted and held for two days after she pulled over to help a toddler whom she had seen walking along the side of an interstate.

The police said that an investigation showed that the woman, Carlee Russell, 25, had searched online for information about Amber Alerts and the movie “Taken,” which is about a kidnapping, before she called 911 on Thursday night to report a toddler walking along the interstate in Hoover, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham.

When the police arrived at the interstate minutes later, they found Ms. Russell’s vehicle and some of her belongings, including her cellphone and purse, but could not find her. The ensuing search for her and the child she had reported seeing drew national attention and intense speculation about what had happened.

Ms. Russell returned home on foot on Saturday night, the police said.

She told investigators that night that she had been forced into a car and then an eighteen-wheeler before she escaped, only to be abducted again and put in a car, Chief Nicholas Derzis of the Hoover Police Department said at a news conference on Wednesday. Ms. Russell said she was then held in a house and put in another car before she escaped and ran home through the woods.

The police said that when they spoke to her on Saturday night, she had a small injury on her lip, a tear in her shirt and $107 in cash in her sock.

Chief Derzis said that a continuing investigation had cast doubt on much of Ms. Russell’s account.

He said that when Ms. Russell left work on Thursday night, surveillance video showed she had “concealed” a bathrobe, a roll of toilet paper and other items from her workplace. She then ordered food from a restaurant and went to a Target, where she bought granola bars and Cheez-Its, he said. Then she drove to the interstate, where she reported seeing the toddler.

Chief Derzis said her 911 call remains the only report of a child on the interstate, despite the fact that many vehicles passed through the area.

Data from Ms. Russell’s phone, he said, showed that during the less than three minutes that she was on the phone, telling a 911 dispatcher that she was following the toddler on the interstate, she traveled about 600 yards. The idea of a toddler walking the distance of six football fields without straying into the roadway or crying was “just very hard for me to understand,” the chief said.

He said that video footage of the roadway did not show anybody on the interstate “other than her car, and then somebody getting out of her driver’s side.” He said that the police had sent the video to the F.B.I. for closer analysis.

Two days before she reported the child on the interstate, Ms. Russell searched online for the phrase “You have to pay for Amber Alert,” Chief Derzis said.

On the day of her disappearance, he said, she searched “How to take money from a register without being caught” and had looked online for a one-way bus ticket traveling that day from Birmingham to Nashville, he said.

As the authorities continue to investigate the case, the police have asked to interview Ms. Russell a second time, the chief said, “but have not been granted that request.”

“As you can see, there are many questions left to be answered,” Chief Derzis said. “But only Carlee can provide those answers. What we can say is we have been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators and we have no reason to believe there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case.”

Chief Derzis said that investigators remain focused on determining where Ms. Russell was over the 49 hours she was missing. Asked about possible charges, he said: “To be perfectly honest with you, that hasn’t even entered our mind or been discussed.”

In an interview with NBC News earlier this week, Ms. Russell’s parents declined to discuss what their daughter had told them about the two days she was missing.

But Ms. Russell’s mother, Talitha Russell, said she believed her daughter had been abducted. “There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life and there were moments when she had to mentally fight for her life,” the mother said.

Talitha Russell did not immediately respond to a text message on Wednesday and her voicemail was full.

At the news conference with Chief Derzis, Mayor Frank V. Brocato of Hoover said that Ms. Russell’s report had spread “fear and pandemonium.”

He said the community had sprung into action, and had organized search parties and prayer vigils after she vanished. The Hoover police, he said, also mobilized other law enforcement agencies, “stopping at nothing to find Carlee.”

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